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Environmental groups decry logging near Cathedral Grove

Times Colonist - Judith Lavoie, May 1, 2012

Environmental groups decry logging near Cathedral Grove
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Cameron Valley Firebreak
Photo by TJ Watt

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer TJ Watt stands beside one of the largest Douglas-fir trees in the Firebreak which measures about 7ft in diameter.

Environmental groups are horrified that Island Timberlands is logging oldgrowth Douglas fir trees, close to Cathedral Grove, in an area that used to be protected.

Cameron Valley Firebreak was formerly protected as an ungulate winter range for Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer, but lost that protection in 2004 when the provincial government allowed Weyerhaeuser to remove 88,000 hectares of private-managed forest land from tree farm licences.

Island Timberlands subsequently bought much of Weyerhaeuser's private managed forest land, including the Cameron Valley Firebreak. The area was previously left unlogged to slow the spread of forest fires.

Morgan Kennah, manager of sustainable timberlands and community affairs for Island Timberlands, said at one time it was necessary to leave large strips forested, like the one in the Cameron Valley, to minimize the spread of fire. That is no longer necessary, she said.

TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder, said, "The grove is just jampacked with elk signs and ancient coastal Douglas firs - 99 per cent of which have already been logged."

Kennah said the company manages hundreds of hectares of mature timber in the Alberni area for deer winter habitat. They recognize that this area provides good winter habitat for deer, along with many other areas across their privatemanaged forest land.

"From Island's perspective, the area being harvested is some of the least used during winter months by ungulates," she said.

There are also culturally modified trees, stripped for their cedar bark, she said.

The Port Alberni-based Watershed-Forest Alliance and Ancient Forest Alliance are appealing to Island Timberlands to stop logging the grove until funds can be raised to save it.

"Island Timberlands does not plan to halt current harvest plans underway, at the request of the Ancient Forest Alliance," Kennah said.

Jane Morden, Watership-Forest Alliance coordinator, said: "This oldgrowth forest, that stretches from mountaintop to valley bottom, is of monumental importance to deer and elk and is incredibly beautiful to wander through."

Logging began last week, Kennah said, and will continue for about three-and-ahalf months.

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